ConAgra Resumes Production of Banquet, Private Label Pot Pies

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ConAgra Resumes Production of Banquet, Private Label Pot Pies

OMAHA, Neb. -- ConAgra Foods, Inc. here said it has resumed production of its Banquet and private label pot pies at its Marshall, Mo., plant, more than a month after the company recalled the products due to salmonella contamination.

ConAgra said it would begin shipping the pot pies to retail customers in December, and consumers could expect to see Banquet and store brand pot pies in stores as soon as January.

ConAgra had recalled all varieties of its pot pies made at the plant, regardless of production date, on Oct. 11. Since recalling the product, ConAgra Foods said it has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to aggressively pursue the likely source of contamination.

The company said the investigation is continuing. In initial findings, environmental testing of the Marshall pot pie production area has shown no traces of salmonella. After the recall, the pot pie production lines were completely disassembled, tested for any traces of contamination, and reassembled.

Testing conducted by an independent laboratory indicated the specific salmonella strain appears to be isolated to Banquet turkey pot pies produced on July 13, 2007, and July 31, 2007.

ConAgra said it has developed enhanced protocols for its ready-to-cook manufacturing plants, including new and more stringent testing protocols for ingredients coming into plants, and further testing of finished products. The company worked with the USDA on the enhanced protocols and measures for the ConAgra Foods plant prior to resuming production.

It also said it has put redesigned, easy-to-follow cooking instructions in place to help eliminate any potential confusion regarding cooking times.

"We apologize to any consumer who became ill from eating any of our pot pies," said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra's c.e.o. "We appreciate the work of the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control and state health officials, which helped us quickly identify the issue and isolate the likely source of contamination.

"We've strengthened processes and testing within our plants and for our suppliers, and we have revised the product cooking instructions to make certain we minimize any potential for a future issue," Rodkin continued. "Any lapse in the safety of our food is unacceptable, and I know the steps we've taken will make a positive difference and help us provide consumers and customers with safe, wholesome products."

The company said it expects to incur approximately $30 million, or approximately $.04 per share, most of which will be recorded in the fiscal second quarter, which will be reported on Dec. 20. With regard to its EPS outlook for fiscal 2008, the company said it expects stronger-than-planned earnings from its trading and merchandising group to offset the direct pot pie recall costs.

The company said it will provide full year EPS guidance in conjunction with its Dec. 20 earnings report.